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Noodle Narrative

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My interview, conducted on April 18, focuses on integration of one’s own culinary tradition and culinary culture of a new country. From the interview, I wanted to understand how adjusting to a new environment had influenced the way of eating, which in my opinion is the most important aspect of a daily life. I had an interview with my aunt, who had spent 25 years in Korea until she moved to U.S. in 1998 in order to study abroad. She still lives in Beavercreek, Ohio, where there are not many Korean restaurants near where she resides. Since she moved to U.S., she has not been to Korea very often. I thought she was an appropriate person to have an interview with, because she has been exposed to both Korean and American culinary culture long enough to fully understand to compare one with another. Also, I wanted to know how the way her mother cooked when she was young differs from how she cooks now.
Due to time and distance limitation, the interview was conduced through Face time, and it was recorded for documentation. Although I had planned to conduct the interview in English, I ended up using Korean during the interview in order to obtain more authentic thoughts from her. It was definitely a good idea to conduct the interview in Korean, because she explained lots of details about significance of noodles in Korean culture and other details related to Korean culinary culture. However, translating every sentence from the interview in order to create subtitles was very tiresome.
There were several interesting points throughout the interview. First of all, I was impressed to hear that there were already many American restaurants in Seoul by the time she left Korea. I thought average Korean people could not really afford eating out, especially at Western restaurants, in 1990s. She said she was already exposed to American cuisine before she came to America, so the adjustment to a new environment was not as difficult as she had imagined. Besides going to restaurants, she was also exposed American food at home, since her family enjoyed American-style breakfast, eating bread, soup, and even sausage for breakfast.
Secondly, I was surprised that my aunt, who has been to America almost 20 years, is an expert of traditional culture in Korea. When I asked her about significance of noodles, instead talking about her personal life, she talked about the significance of noodles in Korean culture; noodles are essential food for feast or big family gatherings. Similar to China’s “longevity noodles” that we have learned in class, noodles also symbolize longevity and forever happiness. It was surprising because when I heard of “longevity noodles” I thought it was a tradition that is unique to China. Realizing that long noodles also exist in Korea, I understood that Eastern countries indeed share similar culture. My aunt’s detailed explanation of traditional Korean culture truly impressed me.
Lastly, the most interesting part of the interview was that her thoughts on Korean culinary culture are little far from what we have learned in class. In class, the discussion on Asian culinary culture concluded that Asian people consider dinnertime as a family gathering, where family members can have conversations with each other. In contrast, Americans do not put much emphasis on gathering of family at a dinner table, because American society, compared to that of Asian countries, seems more individualistic. However, my aunt’s opinion was little different: she thinks not many Asian people necessarily use dinnertime as a time to communicate with others. Instead, the times all of the family members gathered together for a meal were usually for her father to either discipline or preach to his children. She also disagrees that American families do not consider dinnertime as family time, because she said that there are still many American families who emphasize presence of all family members at dinner table and use dinnertimes as time to communicate with each other. However, she commented that a rapid development of smartphones and computers prevent today’s family members from communicating with each other at the dinner table.
Besides three interesting points, her descriptions of how the ways of cooking have changed from past to present were very informative. Although I had expected an answer related to environmental causes, she mentioned development of simplified ingredients and cooking utensils and transition from traditional setting to modernized setting for a meal are the main reasons that her way of cooking differs from that of her mother’s in the past. Of course, there are definitely some environmental influences on her changed way of cooking; for example, she cannot really consume Korean food every day, since finding ingredients are not very easy in America, especially where she lives. Moreover, since she works at an American company, it is hard for her to eat Korean food, which has comparatively strong flavor, while working.
After the interview with my aunt, I took some time to compare her experiences with my own. Compared to the time when my aunt came to the States, Seoul was way more developed when I first came to America back in 2009. By the time I left Korea, Seoul, especially the particular area of Seoul where I am from, had even more Western restaurants than Korean restaurants. However, those restaurants were “Koreanized”, meaning they were not authentic Western cuisines. Of course, I did not have much difficulties in adjusting to America, in terms of food, I was little confused because the food I faced in America were very different from what I had as American food in Korea. Thus, people could easily think that I would me more prepared to come to America than my aunt was, but my aunt, who was only exposed to American restaurants that are originated in America, such as TGIF, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut had experienced less confusion than I had.
As my aunt mentioned during the interview, the United States is actually a “melting pot” where all people with different historical and cultural background can mingle to create a new culture, which eventually becomes a part of American culture. Among the reading documents we had in class, I was really impressed when one author remarked in her book that recipe is simply a tool to reproduce different formations of one food depending on cook’s cultural background. It is always interesting to see a person adopting a recipe from a foreign cuisine and cooking it in one’s own style. This interview really helped me to realize environmental influences only change the way of cooking, but cannot change one’s own eating habits completely.

Noodle Interview Sukyung Kim

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1. Please tell me your name, age, city, and occupation.
2. When did you come to the U.S.?
3. What was the hardest struggle you have gone through adjusting to a new culture?
4. What food do you usually eat? Do you cook or buy food?
5. Do you eat a lot of noodles? Do you cook or buy them?
6. Do noodles play a significant role in your culture (both back in Korea and now)?
7. Briefly explain your thoughts in your own country’s food culture and that of your own family.
8. What’s your perspective of cooking culture of the U.S.? Why?
9. Do you think your cooking style now is different from your mom’s?

Domain Entry 6 Sukyung Kim

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The Chinese restaurant that I was able to visit was located in Doravile, where there are numerous Asian restaurants, such as Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines. Although I have been to Doravile several times, I have never thought there would be such an authentic Chinese restaurant, because most of Chinese restaurants I have visited only had Americanized Chinese food, such as General Tso’s chicken and KungPao chicken. The food I had at Chef Liu truly reminded me of Chinese food I had when I visited China years before. Out of the foods we had, I really liked dumplings, both non-fried and fried ones and the chicken that came out last.IMG_9350 This chicken seemed that it was cooked with a lot of potatoes, and one of our classmates asked Dr.Hong whether Chinese eat lots of potatoes or not. The question and answer from Dr.Hong were both interesting. The unique thing about chicken is that this menu really reminded me of Chinese cuisine by the smell. My assumption is that there is a Chinese cilantro, which makes the smell pretty strong, but every time I had Chinese food in China, I was able to smell the same thing as I smelled from that dish. Although I really enjoyed dumplings and chicken, my favorite dish was the black noodles with vegetables like cucumbers and carrots.IMG_9344 The sauce was unique; the color and taste reminded me of Zhajang sauce, but it was also quite spicy. Because of its unique taste, I could not stop eating this dish, though it was very cold when I got to the restaurant. A lot of the classmates really enjoyed this dish. Besides the dishes that I liked, there were various dishes, mostly noodles, and I regret now that I could not taste each of them. IMG_9347 IMG_9354 IMG_9359 Not only the dishes, but also inside decoration of the restaurant was, in my opinion, very authentic. I could see red color everywhere, and there were some traditional paintings hanging on the wall. Mostly importantly, there was a moving table on each table, so everyone can share dishes, which is the most common aspect of Chinese cuisine. Overall, I really enjoyed the restaurant. Reading the documents after the visit, I was able to compare the theoretical content of the documents with my experience of actual visit to a restaurant. I was surprised that the origin of restaurants was first street food that fed hungers, and restaurants became a place for travelers or those who did not have kitchen. Today, going out for dinner is more likely a positive event than a needs-based event in a family. However, I agree with the document “eating culture” that “eating-out is not just about having access to food, but is about making important social and cultural statements”, since I was able to feel the authentic Chinese vibes while I was at the restaurant. Perhaps, numerous Americanized Chinese restaurants are also capable of giving an insight of Chinese cuisine to those who do not have any experience of Chinese culture and its cuisine.

Domain Entry 5: Noodle Exhibition

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I first thought it was inappropriate to cook instant noodles for the project. However, we chose these noodles because it is really popular in Korean and wanted to share the new trend with the class. Overall, I think this project is very interesting because I was able to go through each step of cooking two different noodles thoroughly, which is not common thing for me. While doing this project, I could examine the ingredients used to make the dish, and it was also fun to go out to get ingredients, cook, and take pictures of the process.
Of course, the process of making the dish was the most exciting part of the project. However, I found it was really interesting to think about cultural significance of instant ramen noodles. I, as a Korean, have never thought seriously about instant ramen noodles. They were always there from when I was really young, and they are still there when I go back home, even in my dorm room. Then, I found out the instant ramen noodles really reflect Korean culture and the development of its society. For example, Koreans are now fanatic about newly released instant ramen noodles, which have developed a lot. The number of kind of instant ramen noodles I can easily find at the supermarket would be more than 100. It is however little bit sad because the increase in consumption of instant ramen noodles show that there are more people who do not put significance on meals. Compared to Italian and Chinese culture, and even to traditional Korean culture, dining time was the most important time for family and individuals. However it seems like everyone is too busy with his or her own life to sit down at a table to have a regular meal.
Also, the noodles we cooked truly reflect the tastes that Koreans like the most: spicy and provocative. Since Koreans always have rice on each meal, most of the side dishes and other main dishes have pretty strong flavor. While doing the project, I could learn the flavors Koreans like the most, and how those flavors remain in different dishes. In addition, the statistics of the two noodles’ sales were impressive, illustrating another Korean culture, short-tempered nature. Koreans are emotionally irascible. When a certain product hits, everyone wants the product. Similarly, when the two instant ramen noodles were released, so many people wanted to buy them that they were always out of stock. The statistics of first several months after release of the products were significantly higher than those months when the “heat” of novelty disappeared.
Andrew and I worked along. We went to get the noodles and other ingredients together, cooked food together, and separated work equally. I worked on the board while Andrew worked on editing and printing pictures to post on the board. Before starting the project, we looked through numerous recipes on personal blogs until we found one that we liked the most. Then, when we started cooking, we talked about what to put first and agreed on the issues before we took action. Also when we wrote the description of food and the cultural significance, we wrote separately first then had each other to look at our writings. I really enjoyed working with Andrew.

Domain Entry 4: Chinese people’s attitudes towards food and cooking

Dr.Hong once mentioned during the class that China is very food-oriented country, meaning Chinese people put a significant amount on eating and drinking in their lives. Indeed, the complexity and variety of Chinese people represent their passion for eating and drinking. There are even numerous literature works related to food. For example, a saying I just learned in my Chinese class is “Eat a nutritious breakfast, a full lunch, and a small amount of dinner.” This saying illustrates that Chinese people truly care about health and they do by modifying eating habits. We can find the complexity of Chinese food by comparing the recipe of traditional Chinese food with that of Western food, such as American. For example, making jiaozi, meaning dumplings, takes a lot of time because people have to cook the ingredients that will be put inside dumplings before they begin making actual dumplings. In contrast, making a hamburger for example, does not take much time; one can cook the meat and simply put other uncooked ingredients, such as lettuce, tomato, and onion together between two sides of a bun. Such complexity of Chinese food represents Chinese peoples’ care about food.
One example to illustrate further significance of food in Chinese people’s lives is bing from “Shuxi’s Rhapsody on Pasta”. In his poem, Shuxi first introduces a brief history of bing, which used to include a broad range of food made of dough, especially wheat dough, then he talks about five to six different types of bing and when to serve the different types of bing. For example, one should eat mantou in spring, bozhuang in summer, leavened bread in autumn, and finally boiled noodles in winter. He matches each type of noodle with each season, since he believes that eating noodles other than one designated for each period is actually bad. His poem not only shows an interesting aspect of Chinese eating culture, but also demonstrates the significance of bing in Chinese people’s lives, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Since China is one of the biggest country in the world with numerous provinces, each region has its own cuisine. For example, Sichuan cuisine is especially spicy, and taste of sweetness is a characteristic of Shanghai cuisine. However, jiaozi, the most common type of dumplings in China whose origin occurred in 225A.D. for the purpose of feeding starving people, are as ubiquitous in China as fireworks and color red. It is universal because every Chinese can make dumplings. Although there are various recipes for making dumplings, the fundamental of making them is first mince vegetables and meat into small pieces and cook in frying pan with a little bit oil, then scramble some eggs with salt, black pepper, and soy sauce before mixing it with the minced vegetables and meat crumbles. Then, mix all of the ingredients together to put inside the dumpling wrapper. Finally, depends on one’s cooking preference, one can steam, bake, boil, or fry the dumplings.
Though the initial purpose of dumplings was to feed starving people, however, now dumplings can be varied depends one’s dietary preferences or events. For example, Chinese people never make dumplings without meat on the New Year’s Eve because they think making dumplings with only vegetables symbolize poor and difficult future. In addition to the evolution of Chinese dumplings from 225A.D. to now, they also illustrate a modern trend of Chinese eating habits: more and more demand for frozen dumplings, which can be served both easily and quickly.

jiaozi

China_Jiaozi_3

Domain Entry 3

The introduction of the book talked about the definition of social anthropology and introduced the concept of ethnographic method. Social anthropology is defined as study of the everyday lives of ordinary people, anywhere, and food is a constant. With the definition of social anthropology, food itself can be analyzed with various perspectives. It is mentioned that “what was deemed to be food, how it was cooked, and who ate together” could be analyzed with social anthropological approach. It was very interesting to connect such analysis to chapter 5, recipes and dishes, because recipes are part of how food is cooked. The introduction was more to teach concepts and explain technical terms to the readers. Thus, the introduction contained numerous new words and definitions of words that anthropologists use. For example, I have not heard of the term, cultural relativism, which is a principle present in the back of social anthropologists’ minds as they do fieldwork, writing, and public engagement. These definitions of words and history of social anthropology were a bit more boring compared to the next reading we had. However, the chapter 5, recipes and dishes, was indeed very interesting. I loved how it started with an example of learning and practicing a recipe that is not even from one’s own culture, because it really showed the cross-cultural aspect of food and how cooking food of another culture can be more powerful than going to a class to learn about other cultures. In the reading, I also loved the term cultural artifact, which means food of distinct culture in the reading. The reading especially emphasized the aesthetic aspect of cultural artifact, because it is all about style and image of food. When talking about style of food, colors, textures, and shapes must be included, because these three components consist the image, either illustrated or imagined, of the food. The author suggests Japanese cuisine as an example of the best aesthetic cuisine, because Japanese people put extreme effort on plating dishes. The next concept the author talked about was classic dishes. The author mentioned five classical cuisines: Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Mexican, and Indian, and I was very surprised that Chinese and European, such as French and Italian, were not mentioned in the reading. However, I was not surprised at all about absence of American cuisine, because the United States is a country that has the most diverse population. Thus, most of American cuisines are derived from different cuisines; American cuisines are indeed cross-cultural. Since more and more people seek for food from different culture nowadays, the author defined recipes as meaning of reproduction, so that people from other cultures can cook the food of certain culture. I really liked author’s new definition of recipes, because recipes help people not only cook food, but also to produce cultural artifacts. And the most perfect example is happening right here at Emory; there are more and more other, especially Asian, cuisines seen at Emory. As an Asian, it is very strange to watch people getting Korean food and chicken masala so casually, as it is just part of their daily life. However, now I think it as very exciting and pleasant to watch people getting more choices on their diet.

Domain 2 Entry

The two reading documents given to us before watching the movies gave me an insight into traditions of noodles in China and Italy. The story of long-life noodle was especially interesting because it contained both cultural and culinary lessons. Reading this document let me understand the significance of food in Chinese culture before watching “Eat, Drink Man and Woman.” Since I have taken several Chinese courses in high school, watching Chinese movie has been one of my favorite ways to learn Chinese language and its culture.
Movie “Eat, Drink Man and Woman” starts with splendid food cooked by Master Chu, who used to be a chef at a hotel restaurant. Master Chu’s family gathers at home every Sunday for a family tim, and this is an important aspect of Chinese culinary culture. Unlike Westerners, who often prefer to eat food in order, Chu’s family and other Chinese enjoy eating dinner with their family as they spend time together to have conversations and share their stories. However, when the three daughters declare independence, moving out from home, at the dinner table, the usual family gathers seem to be over soon. I see this such phenomenon as an example of developmental approach in analysis of food culture, because more and more people in Asia are getting used to a culture of fast foods, instead of cooking and having a meal with their family at home. In terms of culture, Korean culture of food is very similar to that of China. When I was young, my grandmother or my mother always cooked for my entire family, while my grandfather and my father prepared the dinner table by putting silverwares and plates on the table. Contrast to those days, my family now gathers only for big holidays, and we often go to restaurants even when we gather for such events. This is definitely an example of developmental approach, because the contrast between past and present is very clear.
Functionalists would say the variety of food represent the diversity in Chinese culture, and the role of each family member in the family gatherings also a part of functionalism because we can see on surface in the movie. For example, in the movie, Master Chu is the one who cooks for his three daughters. His responsibility of cooking the entire meal shows his responsibility of his three daughters without his wife.
Structuralists would focus on the affinity among the family members, friends, and neighbors. In the movie, a lot of conflicts occur between Master Chu and his three daughters. Although they misunderstand each other for a while, they end up understanding each other in the end. Reconciliation between the second daughter and the father in the end shows the inevitable affinity in the family, and it is a very important part of structuralism. This movie gives a lesson that we need to realize how important our family are in our life. we often assume our family would know everything about us without talking to them. However, just like caring about other people, we need to put our family in priority.
Overall both movies have all the approaches we have learned in the last assignment: functionalism, structuralism, and developmental approaches, though they display those aspects in a very different ways.

Sociological Perspectives on Food and Eating

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According to the reading, it seems that there is a transition from biological and behavioral approach on our food production and consumption to cultural and sociological approach. Goody has proposed five main processes, from growing, or production of food, to cleaning up, or disposal of food. Original nutritional aspects of food includes how we could classify food in five categories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins, five crucial nutrients we need to fulfill certain functions of body. There is an interesting and clear point made by the author; people do not consume food to fulfill the nutrients they need in order to survive, but instead there are more reasons, and those reasons make each country’s culture related food distinct. For example, a typical way that a country celebrates its holiday often includes consumption of special food, and the events in which they share those food are significant parts of their celebration. However, opposite to the positivity of such culture, there are also some negative aspects that food brings to people. Sometimes we feel a significant level of pleasure while we feel as much as anxiety, concerning health, such as gaining weight and increase in sugar level. Food can be also used as defining individual or collective identity. Fischler argues in the reading that the incorporation of individual’s identity can produce a collective identity. Fischler also points out that such incorporation of individuals can be defined as socialization in his opinion. Most importantly, the reading suggests three main approaches to analyzing food systems. Functionalism can be defined as an analogy between a society and our body system. The author claims that specialized function of each organ is similar to that of each person or organization in a society. However, just like the importance of each organ in a body, the impact of one institution can be so huge that it can destroy a society. Due to criticisms they had received, functionalists have been considered old-fashioned since then. Compared to functionalism, structuralism is more focused on individuals’ thoughts, rather than a holistic view of a society. Levi-Strauss, a French anthropologist, believed that examining ethnographic data will give a clue about universal patterns of a society. He believed that these patterns are the same regardless of difference in representation of each culture. Compared to functionalists, structuralists made an analogy everyday speech and cultural surface features. He claimed that everyday speech is something that had been produced while cultural surface features are thought to be generated. Applying this analogy to food systems, structuralists focused on how items are classified, rather than the practicalities of classifying processes of food system. Developmental approaches are, in short, comparing contemporary cultural phenomenon to the past forms of cultural phenomenon. Although it sounds confusing at first, there is an apparent example in our reality. When we go to a traditional restaurant, the menu seems to be conventional, suggesting popular menus based on their records. However, modern restaurants, which often have their own special theme, have their own special menus, aiming special purposes, such as weight loss, weight gain, or avoidance of certain substances. The three different approaches were very interesting because food systems, that can be looked holistically, can be analyzed in various aspects.

About Me

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Hello, my name is Sukyung Kim, though I prefer to use Su Kim in class, and I am thinking of studying Computer Science as major, along Economics as minor. I am originally from Seoul, Korea, but I have lived almost 7 years in States. So far, I have lived in four different states, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and now Georgia. Out of those states I have lived in, I stayed in Virginia the most, graduating high school there. Although I left Korea a while ago, I have been going back home every break, so I do not really feel apart from my family and friends back at home. I chose to take this class because I have a deep interest in both Chinese language and its culture. I took 3 years of Chinese while I was in high school and am currently taking Chinese 202 course at Emory. I really enjoy learning Chinese and plan to stay in China some time in future. I got such interest since my father had started working in China. Since then, I have gone to China every summer, and my friend and I are planning to visit Hong Kong this summer. I hope to learn more about Chinese culture and hope to find same interest in Italian culture as well!

Category: About me, Student Work